Sara Briechle (pronounced BRICK-lee) works to empower University employees to make positive change in their work areas. What exactly does that mean? Learn more about a team member who hit the ground running when she joined the University last February, organizing introductory Lean Six Sigma classes that could be taken remotely when the COVID-19 pandemic closed NEOMED’s doors.
Tell us about yourself, Sara.
SB: My background is rather unusual. I spent the better part of 18 years growing up professionally in the nonprofit sector and working in nearly every type of position within a small nonprofit — from development to marketing, program design and development to leading a volunteer program. So my experience is not typical for people who have Lean Six Sigma certification. Because of that, it allows me to really look at problems from a lot of different angles, not just the Lean Six Sigma angle, but rather understanding that organizations are composed of people and their processes. How can we optimize and leverage those things for the greater good of the organization and the people it serves.
My first introduction to Lean Six Sigma was at KeyBank, where I previously worked for seven and a half years in their operations area. That was a way for me to start to learn not only the Lean Six Sigma tools, but the methodology and apply it in in real-life circumstances. I led a number of teams in their operations area and worked on several projects that transformed the quality of the work that we were doing.
What brought you to NEOMED?
SB: I joined NEOMED in February and this position is exactly what I was hoping to do next in my career, because it brings together all of these pieces of my background and allows me to apply them in a really impactful way. That's what I love about Lean Six Sigma — anybody can do it. There are tools within the methodology that can be applied to nearly any workplace or life situation.
It helps transform a complex process that takes a lot of time and energy and resources into one that aligns to what the customer truly wants. The Lean Six Sigma methodology really equips people to solve those kinds of problems.
To be able to build this initiative from the ground up, under Dr. Langell's leadership, is really exciting. This is definitely a highlight of my professional career.
Can you explain what your role as a senior process engineer entails?
SB: My title can be industry-specific. If you kind of peel it back, all it means is, my role is to help others optimize and engineer their workplace processes. Our lives in the workplace are filled with thousands of processes, from small to complex. How do you submit your expenses? Or what do you do if you need to replace your employee badge? All of those things are processes that are embedded within the University. Then the question becomes, is it an efficient process? Is it an effective process? Is it an easy-to-use process? How many departments do I have to contact in order to actually replace my misplaced badge?
A process engineer helps work with the individuals who are doing these business processes to ask those questions and encourage them to think about what they're doing, why they're doing it – and if there is a better way.
I’ve heard you call yourself a garden nerd.
SB: I am, absolutely. I have nine perennial beds and a giant vegetable garden. I have nine chickens — everything's organic. I love butterflies and bees. I'm a huge advocate for pollinators, which sounds really weird to say, but I raise monarch butterflies in the late summer. I have two dozen heads of lettuce in my refrigerator right now that I’m in the process of giving away. For me, it's all about community. Gardening allows me to connect with my neighbors and the people that are in my life in a in a fun way.
If you want to talk flowers or are interested in some fresh zucchini — call me!
NEOMED’s new Lean Six Sigma training program is set to launch in August and registration is now open. Interested individuals can contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Lean Six Sigma website for more information.